Ava DuVernay, Robert Townsend, Viola Davis & More Honor The Light & Life of Suzzanne Douglas

image: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

It is with a heavy heart that many are learning the news that Suzzanne Douglas, a veteran actress with four decades of stage and screen work to her credit, has died.

She was only 64.

Last seen in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, Douglas was a reliable force in front of the camera and an influential confidant behind the scenes. While a cause of death has yet to be confirmed, Douglas, herself, revealed earlier this year that she experienced “two life threatening cancers” that had changed her life.

Many avid pop culture fans would recall the actress’ best role as matriarch Jerri Peterson on Robert Townsend’s WB-created show, The Parent ‘Hood, which ran from 1995 to 1999. But her work didn’t just surround the realm of comedy, as one of her most endearing roles came alongside Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr., and Savion Glover in 1989’s Tap. She also endeared herself to millions of Black cinephiles as Angela in 1998’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

“Don’t let poor health interrupt your purpose,” Douglas wrote on her Facebook at the time. “God’s mission and plan for our lives takes our being committed to our mind, body and soul.”

Her passing was confirmed by her family Tuesday night, July 6. 

“Suzzanne Douglas, a beautiful and talented actress, made her transition today,” her cousin Angie Tee posted to Facebook. “She warmed our hearts on movie screens and television sets all over the world. This beautiful soul was my cousin.”

Born in Chicago, Douglas was raised by a single mother, along with three siblings, in public housing, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University. She also received her master’s in music from the Manhattan School of Music.

“My heart is full this morning, because yesterday I lost my amazing dancing partner on TV for 5 years, Suzzanne Douglas,” Robert Townsend wrote in a post to his Instagram page Wednesday afternoon. “She was always a part of the ultimate plan, [to] create a TV series with old fashion[ed] morals and values, using the show as a Trojan horse to help raise a generation of Black kids without mamas or daddies, quietly planting seeds of hope and new aspirations in between the jokes.”

Douglas earned an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Tap, and had a host of high-profile films in the early 2000s ranging from 2003’s School of Rock to 2015’s Whitney Houston: A Tragic Love, where she portrayed gospel legend Cissy Houston.

Her appearance in the acclaimed 2019 Netflix miniseries When They See Us, earned two Emmy Awards and 16 nominations, and gave way to what is now her final role in Angel Kristi Williams’ and Felicia Pride’s Really Love. The film, which finds her playing next to Uzo Aduba, Michael Ealy, and Naturi Naughton, is set in a gentrifying Washington, DC, where a rising Black painter tries to break into a competitive art world while facing a whirlwind romance they never expected.

Douglas is survived by her husband, neuro-radiologist Roy Jonathan Cobb, and their daughter, Jordan.

See Also

Friends, former castmates, and fellow creatives all share their remembrances to Suzzanne Douglas, which you can read for yourself below.

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